WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Uncertain Newark Mayoral Election offers many variables

So much intrigue in today's special Newark mayoral election, not at all like last year's Wilmington mayoral election, where many of us figured Dennis Williams would prevail.

The variables include a multi-candidate field; the emotional battle over the proposed data center/power plant at the old Chrysler plant site, pitting big labor/business interests (and Governor Markell) against an apparently substantial number of ordinary Newark residents; last minute shenanigans involving a business/labor PAC supporting one of the candidates (although she disavows their support); and factors which could HURT turn-out in spite of the great interest (possible periods of intense rainfall, and the start of Thanksgiving holiday travel).

Monday night, union workers assembled along South College Avenue near the Chrysler property to demonstrate support for the proposed data center/power plant. Jobs, jobs, jobs. But neighboring residents fear the plant would shatter the tranquility of their neighborhood, and sap their health, quality of life, and yes, property values.

Supporters of the data center/power plant insist those fears are overblown.

Anyway, what appears to be a classic clash between business/labor/university (working in tandem) vs. ordinary residents, certainly environmentalists and progressives, ironically, some of the very people who propelled Jack Markell (Newark High School alum) over John Carney, the labor/establishment candidate in that 2008 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

No Newark election in memory packs so much passion and so many variables. Listen for our Tom Lehman reporting from Newark throughout the day.

The NEWARK POST chronicles the intrigue over a PAC funded by business/labor interests supporting the data center/power plant...


Posted at 7:48am on November 26, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Tue, Nov 26, 2013 10:53am
My own opinion is what is wrong with bringing these jobs to Newark. We certainly need them after losing two auto factories. But this issue is creating so much turmoil that it drove Mayor Vance Funk out-of-office.

A segment of the Newark population looks down on factory workers and anyone who works with their hands, unless it is "arts and crafts". That has never been a favorite segment of the Newark population, as my father was a tool and dye maker.

Tue, Nov 26, 2013 12:24pm
Actually Mayor Funk was driven out before the power plant raised its ugly head.

There is nothing wrong with bringing jobs to Newark. At stake is the cost. I think all big businesses should make note that a university town is not the place to make a stand for big industry and Wall Street get-rich-quick schemes. It's a university town for heaven's sakes; they have access to computers and know how to get their own facts.

The cost, Jim, is the problem. It is the equivalent to having your neighbor build a 35-story building next to your property... It is going to cost YOU more money to have them build there... You would need to strengthen your foundation, cost; you would need to schedule more frequent roof cleanings to remove all the cigarette butts getting tossed on your roof, cost. You would have to change your behavior or seal the window, because there would be a guy sitting at his desk, looking out his window right into your bedroom, cost... It costs you to have "such" progress going in...

The number of jobs this brings is minimal. That argument as an incentive has been taken off the table. Just one new warehouse provides more income funneled into Newark's economy than the combination of a data center and power plant would.

The biggest cost is metallic elements. Elements that are safe buried in the ground, once pulled up and burned, get scattered over the entire town... Every morning residents would be brushing off a micron worth of lead, radon, plutonium, uranium, arsenic, off their cars and patio furniture... All of these metals, though safe when buried deep, are dangerous to all life when released above ground. Prevailing winds will carry the residue to Wilmington before it falls, yet drop bits of it all along the way....

So, Jim H.: Having a jobs go to someone else, and dying 10 years later instead of 50, is why people are up in arms over having expressly these jobs come into Newark...

No problem with jobs themselves. Big problem with the collateral damage they bring to the table....

Allan Loudell
Tue, Nov 26, 2013 1:15pm
That's correct. Mayor Funk resigned, citing health concerns, but also stress related to the controversy over a new WAWA store...

Allan Loudell

Tue, Nov 26, 2013 1:18pm
Kavips - I've tried to get some information of particulate pollution from gas-fired power plants and can't find anything mentioning heavy metals in emissions. Perhaps you are referring to life-cycle pollution, such as heavy metal contamination from fracking? How about a reference?

Tue, Nov 26, 2013 2:35pm
If the stress of the WAWA was too much for him imagine the stress this would cause!.

Tue, Nov 26, 2013 6:31pm
Stress? My goodness Vance, it was only a Wawa store!

Allan Loudell
Tue, Nov 26, 2013 7:27pm
I've always found that Wawa explanation very bizarre!

Tue, Nov 26, 2013 8:27pm
Remember the election in the 90's when this line got a lot of attention? It's the economy, s----d! Well, to everybody who is wondering why people in Newark are upset: It's not the Data Center, it's the power plant, s----d!!! The Data Center is huge. I welcome the union jobs it would bring to build it. The jobs that would be permanent are also welcome. What is not welcome is the water and air degradation that the power plant would bring. If the U. of D. and the Data Center would give up the power plant, most of us would be fine with that. But THEY are the ones who are being stubborn. People in Newark are NOT anti-jobs or anti-Data Center. I T"S THE POWER PLANT THAT HAS US UP IN ARMS, AND WE WILL NOT ACCEPT IT. PERIOD.

Tue, Nov 26, 2013 9:53pm
With Vance, a group of Newark natives, all Tea-Party types, took up the idea that physically threatening Vance was the way to get him to change his mind. They staked out his house, so he had to get into abusive verbal confrontations every time he pulled up in his driveway. Though Vance's neighbors were on his side, they weren't fond of it, and even though he originally plowed through, the potential of violence such as a home invasion, an attack on the street - if they'd thought of this new knock out game, they would have loved that - zall grew instead of diminished...

The people against the Wawa in Newark are sick people...

That is the real reason Vance decided not to run again, then, when it didn't stop after that announcement, he quit suddenly.

I wish he'd gone public. He didn't. Thought it made him look weak or like he was a whiner. He took the road normal people take when they get embarrassed, they brush it under the rug... because it is just too ugly to show the truth to the public.

If this happens to anyone else, that is not what you do. You tell the world, and since the world is much bigger than the threat, the problem goes away.

Wed, Nov 27, 2013 1:59am
All right Kavips, you've stepped over the line here. The TEA party does not use the threat of bodily harm to get its way. We may have some bozoheads among our ranks, but unlike some ruthless policitians in the past (Nixon and Clinton come to mind), our people don't use mob tactics.

I must also remind you once again that the TEA party is not yet in power, but that's about to change.

Allan Loudell
Wed, Nov 27, 2013 5:51am
I would be shocked if there were that many Tea Party sympathizers in a college town such as Newark!

Anyway, Polly Sierer wins the Newark mayoral race. That would appear to be a victory for the labor/business/university interests in favor of the power plant. But one assumes Sierer will have to navigate very carefully to avoid widening the chasm in Newark. In her victory speech, she noted the polarization of the community.

Interesting, the top three finishers in the Newark mayoral race (Polly Sierer, Amy Roe, and Rebecca Powers) were all women!

Allan Loudell

Wed, Nov 27, 2013 7:19am
Allan, I would have to remark that in today's world we are so used to women, that exceptional things like this, don't register anymore. It almost takes some one on the outside sifting through data, to notice anymore...

And I thank you for that. Honestly the thought never occurred to me, until I read it in your comment.

Women have campaigned long and hard to be treated as equals to men. Stating it should not matter if a being was male or female, but that they were competent over incompetent.

Since you were the first mention of it, and we knew pretty much who the top three were for some time now, I am struck that perhaps, we have reached that point...

We certainly have been there when considering our presidential contenders now that I think of it....

Wed, Nov 27, 2013 7:21am
Mr. Pizza... I hear you... but facts on the ground don't seem to verify your claims.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Nov 27, 2013 8:02am
I haven't lived near Newark for many years, so don't follow its news, but am familiar with the somewhat "haughty" attitude the city can take with its neighbors who shop and spend money in their city, but don't live in their city, yet live in the surrounding communities. But that's a story for another time.

I'm confused as I've read the dialog here. Isn't the new Data Center/Power Plant project supposed to go where the old Chrysler Assembly Plant was located? That is already an industrialized zone and has been since that plant opened in 1952.

A question about the proposed power plant. Wasn't it supposed to be a "green" facility? What air and water pollution are we talking about? Surely this wasn't going to be a coal-fired power plant, but is a gas-fired facility based on what Dunmore wrote above.

Dunmore above asks a valid question that has been ignored and that was: "I've tried to get some information of particulate pollution from gas-fired power plants and can't find anything mentioning heavy metals in emissions. Perhaps you are referring to life-cycle pollution, such as heavy metal contamination from fracking? How about a reference?"

It seems that more info is needed, so Kavips, since you are very resourceful in finding stuff, can you find such info?

If Kavips is correct in his claims, then I can understand the anger and determination of Laurasmommie in fighting this power plant, BUT if those are not correct assertions, then it would appear that Newark is making a poor decision, based ONLY on what I've read here.

Wed, Nov 27, 2013 9:10am
Very true, Mike. Sorry so long in responding to the question regarding the particulates. There was an election yesterday, and it was too time-consuming to do the research....

It's a done deal now, since by 115 votes the pro-power-plant candidate will now be mayor, and will cast the deciding vote required to go forward. The only excitement over this election was that the winner would be the decider of the current 3-3 tie.

It will now be 4-3 in favor of the plant, instead of 4-3 against. Hence, all the excitement over a tiny college-town's head official.

You being someone new to the controversy, let me simply paint it as it stood.

Construction would involve 1,000 jobs to mostly out-of-state labor, trade-union people, and once operational, would employ about 7 people per shift.

The unit would be the largest single power turbine in Delaware, and would be the same as one fourth of Millsboro (4 burners) or Hay River(4 burners)... The burner size would be the same.

Compared to coal, it can be considered "green". But compared to nothing at all, it is pollution.

It will run 24/7. No boiler tied to the power grid ever runs 24/7. When power demand ebbs, they trim down. Because the data center will need power 100%, this will run all the time, selling its extra power to the grid. It became apparent in pouring over the details that this is a move to build a huge power-plant by attaching a data-center as a camouflage; instead of building a data center requiring the building of an additional power source. Out of the 248 MW's produced, 246 get sold to the grid.

The turbine is noisy. Decibel wise, it will sound like having two Tea Party neighbors outside your window discussing politics at 2 a.m. Closest houses are 200 feet away from the plant. What once was zoned industrial, as empty ground under Chrysler, now is to be a noisy giant gas turbine. Videos exist of similar turbines making a rather horrible racket heard from miles away.

The plant will require 300-million gallons of fresh water per hour. That will provide a huge strain on a drought-prone agricultural area.

But mostly, the particulates from the gas being burned are the problem.

These same particulates are found in your gas today.

However gas from fracking has more of these than gas pulled out of bubbles in rock. Gas from the Marcellus Shale will be directed to this plant. Studies of other 248 MW generators have captured the amounts of particles, and they were done using non-fracked gas. Radon particularly is prevalent in shale-fracked natural gas. Radon as an inert gas is burned and passes up through the stack to be spread over a wide range. Radon is radioactive, meaning it breaks down. Unfortunately its isotope breaks down into lead. If you breathe in a radon and it breaks down while inside of you, its lead residue stays, forming a hot spot in your lung for cancer to begin. As you know, radon is a deadly gas. That is why radon detectors are sold and used during all prior-sale house inspections. Buyers need to know. And why radon is the number-one lung cancer cause after the threat of tobacco is removed.

As for jobs, putting in a warehouse that simply processes orders would create more long-term, higher paying jobs than a data center, without environmental consequences. I used to think data centers were lots of people filing data. They aren't. They are banks of computers that have to have someone to throw a switch if something goes wrong. We will be hiring one person a shift to throw that switch if needed..

So when the negatives stack up against the positives, the negatives for those who live there tend to be higher.

Those were the issues. Against which a lot of money and manpower was thrown to push the deal through.

It will now go forward, so we must all focus on the positives and monitor the negatives to ensure they remain under a sustainable level...

Wed, Nov 27, 2013 9:56am
here are some links... Sorry.. I had to go back 4 months in the archives to pull it. I'm surprised it has been that long.

Here is our first indication of problems based on sounds emitting from other data centers across the country.


Here is another take with different footage...


As an aside, here is the correct explanation as to why Bloom Boxes could not possibly work for a data center, as some callers who didn't support the power plant on WDEL's talk shows have implied.


As for particulates... here is my report... (less detailed than I remember it)...


and here is the mother-document...


Mike from Delaware
Wed, Nov 27, 2013 10:45am
Kavips: As usual, you are a master of finding information. Thank you. Your analysis was well done.

I didn't realize homes were located only 200 feet from the Chrysler property. Sounds like this power-plant will seriously lower their quality-of-life in their homes AND seriously reduce the resale value of those homes.

If I remember correctly, doesn't the city of Newark SELL electricity to their residents? So the new power plant essentially is providing the city of Newark with an additional source for its electricity that probably won't be shared with others in the grid outside the city of Newark. Probably at a lower cost to Newark government, that the local government can then still sell at the higher price to their residents. This guess may not be totally correct, but my point is how, the city of Newark - that is the government, not the residents - will benefit from this so-called "good deal". THAT sounds like the Newark city government I remember from when I lived just outside of Newark.

Thank you for your excellent commentary and digging up the data as I think I totally understand now why Laurasmommie is so worked up about this issue.

Any time our civic association had to deal with the city of Newark for some reason, we always came away from the experience with the thought that if the world ever needed an enema, they should put the hose in Newark.

Wed, Nov 27, 2013 12:55pm
Part of my news responsibility included coverage the Newark City Council meetings. I would generally sit with the Newark Post reporter. We would be amazed how fast the council members would leave the room at the meeting's conclusion. Before the meeting would be ended, they would say the meeting was continuing, but they were now in "Executive Session." This was simply a way of avoiding all of us in the room. Heaven forbid! We might ask a question!

Wed, Nov 27, 2013 3:32pm
Jim H.. I laughed out loud. Is that a current assessment or one from the past?

It is such a great idea on a managerial level, I'm going to steal it... lol. I love it.. :)

Mike: Your guess is correct on the electricity and that was one of the selling points FOR putting in the power plant...

In fact, most of the controversy was over the omissions we were not told about... just to get approval. Many against the power plant were originally for it, including myself. Just as facts started coming in, we said... "Whoa, wait a second, here." The election was more a vote to stall for time, in order to make a better decision once all facts were on the table; perhaps then it was of residents either completely for or against the installation of the power plant....

Tue, Dec 3, 2013 1:45am
There is an attempt to nullify the Newark election, and redo with only two candidates.

The PAC that spent 45,000 to advertise for the power plant, sent voters to the wrong polling places on their literature. If one was older upon seeing no voting going on, they wouldn't vote.

it is very possible that 115 people were sent to non existent voting booths and didn't vote. That is only 19 people per district....

The election should be recast as a runoff with just the top two contenders going head to head....

It is like the old South when you let too much money enter politics with no accountability....

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